Reading famed author Alice Walker’s recent call on R&B singer Alicia Keys to boycott Israel sent waves of grief spiraling through my veins. I have known for a long time that Walker is no friend of Israel and has issues that I can only call anti-Semitism, but to actually read the words of this letter… it is simply more of the same old Jew-hatred against Jewish self-determination masked in “progressive” rhetoric that we see all too often these days. Walker claims she is “not against individuals (Israelis),” but she wants to fight an “apartheid state.”
She counsels Ms. Keys against “destroying her soul” by performing in Israel. She states that the situation in Israel is “a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.”
Yes, and more. Although she would like to conveniently separate Israelis from Israel and Jews from Israel, the fact is that we Jews like it or not, are connected to Israel. It is the one and only Jewish state. For her to go to such lengths as to proclaim an artist who performs in Israel will lose her SOUL is not only outrageous, it is also anti-Semitic.
Underlying this level of hatred towards Israel is a profound disruption in Alice Walker’s sense of self. In one paradigm articulated by Heinz Kohut, a psychoanalyst who developed a particular theory of self-esteem, problems stem from different developmental disruptions. One disruption in particular, a “twinship transference” can perhaps account for Alice Walker’s myopic and destructive focus on Israel.
In addition to a more benign “chutzpah” born of ignorance, Alice Walker is envious.
When a once confirming alike-ness, a twinship, goes awry, it can devolve into envy. The need to be merged with the primary caretakers at infancy, to feel “one-ness” is essential.
Political movements especially insecure new ones, need everyone to follow the party line. Those in them that don’t are expelled.
Now, it would be easier if Israel stopped being a Jewish state. Giving up parts of the land is not the issue. It has never been the issue. Giving it all up, has always been the issue.
Un-examined envy spills out in various forms. Walker’s vitriol says more about her hatred of Israel than her caring about the “soul” of Alicia Keys.
Isolating Israel as a source of the world’s evil and keeping completely mum on the killing machines in Syria, Sudan, North Korea and even the Gaza based Hamas leadership are only one clue.
Her hatred of Jewish self-determination is all over her letter.
Did she at one time in the mid-sixties feel united with Jews fighting alongside African Americans for American Civil Rights? Did that twinship get disrupted when differences in class and standing in society be it skin color or money twist her mind?
I don’t know what happened but somehow Israel has become the scapegoat – the only Jewish state, a country the size of New Jersey became the carrier of the world’s ills. Sounds familiar and smells like anti-Semitism.
Alice Walker cannot bear the thought of an artist she admires refusing to participate in her boycott, refusing her mission.
Alice Walker must know that Israel settled more than 800,000 Jews forced to flee their native countries from nine Arab countries, Turkey and Iran. Jewish communities predating Islam in most of the Middle East and North Africa were expelled or forced to flee their ancient homelands in the 1950’s. Where on earth did those Jewish communities go once they were stripped of their multi-millennial identities and attachment to their homelands? Most of those countries now don’t have a single Jew living in them.
Egypt’s ancient Jewish community is gone, and now many Copts, traumatized by recent state sanctioned events fear for their lives. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Mursi will not allow new churches to be built and his security forces have not prevented large- scale attacks on Egypt’s ancient Christian community.
It does not register to Alice Walker that an Israel, impoverished by wars started by the Arab rejection of a United Nations Resolution, settled Jewish refugees from Poland to Iraq – Jews who were exiled or fleeing with no other choice, from a very anti-Semitic world that questioned their loyalty and nationality elsewhere, settled in Israel. It is our new homeland, where we turned lemons into lemonade that she finds so disgusting. No, not Israeli “individuals” she proclaims, not individual Jews, just Israel.
She worries about the soul of her “young sister” Alicia Keys being damaged by performing in “evil” Israel, as though Israel is the only place on earth where Alicia Keys has thought of performing that is worth boycotting.
I don’t want to argue with Alice Walker or convince her to change her tune. It’s deeply ingrained by now. She has had years of honing it. Unfortunately it had to land this time on a beautiful young performer who is no “sister” to Walker’s hatred.
It makes it impossible to feel good about one-self unless the “offending object,” in psychoanalytic parlance, (in this case Israel), is isolated, cast off or destroyed.
Envy is a terrifyingly destructive force—the thinking goes like this:
“Your existence makes me feel so unbearably bad about myself. I feel diminished by your success. It’s unbearable. One of us has to go– there is no room for both of us. Your survival undermines mine.”
This is the nature of envy – unlike jealousy, it has no redeemable qualities, it does not motivate the person left out to do better, to find a way in or to improve without having to destroy the other.
The stakes are higher when dealing with envy, darker and destructive. Envy must destroy one or the other to feel better. There is no room in Alice Walker’s world for both herself and Israel as a Jewish country.
And in this case, Walker has failed to inject her envy into Alicia Keys, who has chosen much needed love, sharing her music and her light with people in Israel.